There are two tracks that musicians who have been around for decades can take–they can resign to touring based on past glories, or they can continue to evolve and take their music to progressive new heights. Based on the performance of their latest endeavor, Rather Ripped, Sonic Youth has chosen the latter path and ultimately created an album that fits in famously with the current indie scene.
Twenty-five years in the making, Rather Ripped is a smooth arrangement of twelve songs that flow into one another like a continuous jam session of aesthetically pleasing harmonies mixed with heavy distortion. The instrumental material is in keeping with the recent soft-rock trend featuring bands like The Shins or Phoenix, but the use of vintage-sounding distortion and organ play, in addition to the chanteuse-inspired vocal styling of Kim Gordon, owes more to The Velvet Underground than modern-day influences. On “What a Waste” one would swear Nico is singing on a heavier, more modern Chelsea Girl. This is continued on “Jams Run Free,” in which Gordon’s impassioned voice seems to be in musical conversation with the harmonies; when she gasps, “I like the way you move,” the simple guitar riffs seem to answer in acknowledgement. “Rats” is an eerie departure from the album’s soft rock nature and Thurston Moore’s vocals channel a Jim Morrison vibe. “Incinerate,” the album’s first single, is one of the catchiest songs and serves as a good showcase for the disc’s overall tone.
As a whole Sonic Youth’s latest release allows for a chill atmosphere with a hint of vintage edge.